The Artwork of Awakening: The Redleaf Forest – Developer Interview

Here’s the second part of the Awakening: The Redleaf Forest interview with All About Casual Game, this time about art! Originally posted here.

The Artwork of Awakening: The Redleaf Forest – Developer Interview
by All About Casual Game on June 18, 2014
In this second part of the interview, we talked to Lie Setiawan about the artwork in this final game in the legendary Awakening franchise, The Redleaf Forest.

Hello, please introduce yourself! 

Hi, my name is Lie Setiawan. I’m from Jakarta, Indonesia and I started making games when I joined Boomzap in 2010. I have worked on Otherworld: Spring of Shadows, the Dana Knightstone series, Antique Road Trip: American Dreamin’, Botanica: Into the Unknown and and several games in the Awakening series including the latest,  Awakening: The Redleaf Forest.

What is Awakening: The Redleaf Forest all about?

Awakening: The Redleaf Forest is about Sophia finally reaching the end of the long adventure she has been through. In between, we also introduced a more serious part of the Awakening world which is the feud between centaurs and dwarves but basically it’s about being united and the happy ending for all the conflicts encountered.

How would you describe the art style for this game? Does it change in every Awakening title?

The art style was pretty challenging for this game since we are breaking the usual Awakening style into something more real, more dark, more mature. It changes in each Awakening title, yes, but not as much as Awakening 6 in my personal opinion. We remade a lot of the characters and we did more concept explorations in each area.

As the series finale, we encounter some darker themes as we battle the enemy one last time. How did you do this while maintaining the Boomzap vision of bright and beautiful games?

Hmm we didn’t really try maintaining the bright and beautiful aspect per se. What we did was hold back from getting the art too far away from the Awakening standard and imagine the extent of how dark the Awakening world could be.

What are the challenges in creating art for a fantasy game? How did you cope with that?

The challenges would definitely be the lack of real references. We needed to go back to the basic art design and ask ourselves the following questions: how does the object work, why was it built, who built it, what is it made of, why is it made like that. Then we gather the closest references from real life and develop from there.

Where do you get the ideas for the appearances of the characters and in designing the different races?

We discussed a lot within the team. For example, we agreed we would make the centaurs a tribal yet civilized race and not as barbaric as most games depict them. We tried to understand how they live and what kind of people they could be then start exploring our concepts.

Sophia, Dreadmyre and Grimble were characters we’ve seen all throughout the series. Any changes in creating them?

Sophia has the least changed feature in terms of appearance because she is the main character and we wanted keep her as is. Dreadmyre did not change as well; the concept is mature enough and fits right in. The only big changes were with Grimble. We totally made him into a more mature character. He evolved as the story progressed.

Who is your favorite character in the Awakening world?

Hmmm. I think I would say pokegon (short for pocket dragon). Why? Because he is always there and ready to help. He doesn’t talk or anything. Just burn everything you want him to! Hahaha!

What were your inspirations for the different places visited by Sophia? How did you make them realistic despite being fictional locations?

This goes along with the characters. When we think about the characters we also think about where they are living and basically put yourself inside the universe and imagine. We also have a ground rule set (like it’s Redleaf Forest) for the universe early on so we implement and develop from there. For realism, we look at real life references because even if it’s a fantasy world, it still has to be believable. We refer to actual photos of trees, skies and other things to see if it’s all working together and looks real.

The Redleaf Forest featured countless beautiful locations, which one is your favorite?

This is the hardest of all questions! Hmmmm that would be the caves then. It’s just interesting how we can just leave clues on who has been in it – like the chameleon character, it was fun to put a nest inside the caves for it. No need to explicitly show what it is just hints of it. Adding all that small things is just so fun and challenging to make.

What is the most important thing in making art for HOPAs and in working with a team?

In making HOPAs, it’s important to also know the technical aspects such as clearly defined objects and hotspots. This rule just goes above every other basic rule in art, because it affects the gameplay a lot. As for working in team, you must be in the project 100% and be passionate with it, thats it. If each person in the team has this, it’s gonna be amazing!

What aspects of the game did you enjoy making the most? 

Simply working with the best people in their own fields, switching ideas, working solutions on each problem we encounter. Being with passionate people and together creating something fun. The feeling of that is just awesome.

Can you share some advice for aspiring artists who also want to make games someday?

Never go half hearted. Whatever game it is, give all your best. Be super objective; you tend to get biased on your own game. Listen objectively to what others have to say about it, but still hold on to the principals you think is right for the game. And lastly, you should learn to detach yourself because in games, revisions are always going to happen and sometimes it isn’t for the best either. By being able to detach yourself from your work, the easier it will be to revise it. 🙂